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Can Clinton Win Over Pro-Sanders Teachers? Two Delegates’ Views

By Alyson Klein — July 26, 2016 2 min read
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Jennifer Webb-Cook and Alexis Salt have a lot in common. They both teach in Nevada’s Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. They’re both active in the National Education Association and are delegates here at the Democratic National Convention.

They see policy similarly, too. Ask either one about former U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, and you’ll get a visceral, negative reaction. They’d both love to see the end of the federal requirement for annual testing. They want more resources for schools, especially those that serve disadvantaged students, like theirs. And they both worry about how issues beyond K-12—from health care to drug policy—will impact their students.

But Webb-Cook, a delegate for presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, can’t wait to cast her vote for a woman she’s long admired.

And Salt, a delegate for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and a swing state voter, isn’t sure that she can support Clinton in November, even though she says she can’t stand the GOP nominee, Donald Trump.

When Salt looks at Clinton on K-12, she sees President Barack Obama. And that’s not a good thing.

“Obama was a huge disappointment on education,” Salt said. “From what I’ve seen, I feel like Hillary Clinton is going to be the same disappointment on education. ... I feel like it’s going to be as bad, if not worse. It’s just going to be the same thing. It’s going to be four or eight years of the same garbage. More corporations getting their money. More charter schools. More choice, and that takes money from public education.”

Webb-Cook, though, sees differences. For one thing, she can’t imagine Clinton hiring Duncan as secretary—and keeping him around as long as Obama did.

“I think that she has a better philosophy on education than President Obama does,” Webb-Cook. “It took him forever to get rid of Arne Duncan. He was a trainwreck. He was evil, and he didn’t like kids at all, not even a little bit.”

And she’s impressed with what she sees as Clinton’s longtime commitment to children.

“I look at her background and everything that she has done for kids,” Webb-Cook said, specifically mentioning Clinton’s championship of children’s health care programs as first lady. “I just don’t see her changing any of that.”

What’s more, she suspects that after a few years, Clinton may even be willing to get rid of mandated standardized testing, not just talk about paring it back, like Obama has.

“I think she is going to work toward getting rid of all this testing, because it’s really out of control,” she said.

So what could Webb-Cook—or Clinton—do to win over Salt?

“You know what Hillary could say? No one can make education policy, unless they’ve worked for at least five years as a teacher,” Salt said. And ideally, everyone in Clinton’s Education Department, from the secretary on down, should have come from the classroom fairly recently, not decades ago. The secretary, she added, should have both teaching and administrative experience.

And here again, the two were back on the same page.

Webb-Cook nodded. “I think that’s a good idea,” she said.

Jennifer Webb-Cook, left, and Alexis Salt, right, teach in the same district and belong to the same union, but support different candidates.

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